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Black Lightning (Russian)


We need a new superhero. The Marvel films have been great and I’m sure they will continue to entertain and impress. The DC films have been kept afloat by Christopher Nolan, so we’ll see what comes from the other heroes that make up the Justice League. In any event, we need a new hero to capture our interest that hasn’t been in our comics, movies and television shows for years. Easier said than done, but smaller films have tried—see Griff the Invisible and Super—to varying success. In search of a new hero, I ventured to Russia and found a fun story in Timur Bekmambetov’s Black Lightning (Черная Молния).

Grade:

Set in 2004 Moscow, heartless entrepreneur Kuptsov (Viktor Verzhbitskiy, 12 and Night Watch) is drilling deep underneath the surface to discover a fortune of diamonds. Unfortunately for the Muscovites, drilling this deep into the ground destroys the foundation of the city and would kill millions. Fortunately, Kuptsov needs more power to get beyond the foundation and must search for the nanocatalyst, which can be found in an old-school Volga. Dima (Grigoriy Dobrygin) receives a birthday present from his father (Sergey Garmash, 12) in the form of said Volga. After his father suffers an Uncle Ben-like fate, Dima uses the Volga, with flying capabilities thanks to the nanocatalyst, to fight crime in Moscow and woo the enchanting Nastya (Ekaterina Vilkova).

Describing this film is much more complex than actually watching it, I swear. It’s basically a Russian version of Spider-man and Iron Man. Dima is a young intellectual who has aspirations of being rich with the finest things and the beautiful girlfriend attached to his arm, but learns right and wrong from his father, who comes to a fateful end practicing what he preached. The Iron Man comes in since he needs a machine to be useful.

What’s best about Black Lightning is the portrayal of young adulthood in Russia and the film’s work in special effects to show that the West isn’t the only place that can produce action films. While the effects aren’t great, they are still good enough for a film released in 2009. There are some cheesy moments where the effects make you slightly roll your eyes, but find me a film in the US or Britain with a $15mil budget that won’t have those moments.

With Dima, Nastya and the rest of their classmates, we get an idea of what the early stages of college/university are like for Russians. While the structure and culture of school is very different, the students still act the same and react accordingly. There is even a mention of the awesomely vain concept of “face control” when Dima and his friend, Maks, visit a club. Face control is essentially the judging of one’s appearance as being worthy or unworthy of entering a club. It happens everywhere, but the Russians have a term for it.

  

Black Lightning is the type of film that has plot holes basically everywhere, but it never takes itself too seriously—surprisingly—and has fun with the idea of a flower delivery boy flying through the streets of Moscow. I wish the subtitles had been more in depth as there are key moments during the film where music or a radio broadcast in the background foreshadow what is about to come and actually give subtle hints to Dima, but the lyrics/words are not translated.

The acting is solid as Dobrygin has a calm, yet intense, gaze that fits Dima’s character well. With support from Garmash and Verzhbitskiy, relatively common actors, there is a good rapport between characters as the film moves seamlessly through the plot-progression. Also, if Vilkova was a little less dainty and fragile, she would’ve made a perfect Black Widow as she is basically Scarlett Johansson, but actually Russian.

Black Lightning isn’t amazing, but it keeps you entertained and like [Rec] last week, it provides a good insight into another country’s view of a genre the English-speaking world has tried to globalize. It’s worth a look.

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  1. Never heard of this one before but it actually sounds kind of interesting. The problem I have with unknown superhero stories is they are origin stories and little else but I’m intrigued by this one. Thanks!

    • True, this one is primarily an origin story, but the characters are likable and the story keeps you (at least relatively) engaged. Hope you like it!

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